How many more teachers can a school district hire if the price for its tablets is $199 vs. $678? That has to be the question that the Los Angeles school district teachers union president is asking the school board. The same school board that is paying $30 million for 31,000 iPads for teachers and students.
According to Engadget the LA Unified School District will be paying Apple $30 million dollars for 31,000 iPads. Those iPads are costing $678 each which is about $200 more than the price of entry level iPads. The school district serves 640,000 students. The iPads will be distributed among the 47 campuses for use by students and teachers. That’s about 20 students per iPad without adding in any usage by teachers.
That might not have seemed so excessive if ZDNET had not reported a few days ago that Microsoft is offering its Surface RT tablet to schools and universities for significantly less.
Under the program, Surface RTs without keyboards will go for $199 (normal estimated retail price is $499). With a touch keyboard, the discounted price is $249 (estimated retail price is $599), and with a type keyboard the discounted price is $289 (estimated retail price is $629).
That is a significant reduction that school systems in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China (via Digital China), Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States can take advantage of. The offer started June 18th and is available until August 31st of this year.
The LA school system might want to rethink its deal with Apple in light of the new offer from Microsoft. Warren Fletcher, the local teachers union president, must be steamed. He had requested that the $30 million be used for hiring more staff. That money could have purchased the same number of Surface RT tablets with millions left over for new teachers and teaching assistants.
Apparently the school board decided on the iPads because “district officials argued that national student tests require computer literacy.” While that is undoubtedly true, most businesses use Windows based PCs and Microsoft Office products. Preparing students for the wide world of business could be done more effectively using Surface RT which comes with Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 already installed.
While many argue that Apple products are easier to use (“They just work”), the reality is that most students will spend at least the first few years of their working lives working on Windows based computers with Microsoft Office software. Apple’s iLife, and iWork software is rarely used for business. Most Apple business customers install Microsoft Office for Mac for their work documents.
Ah well. Apple has a great $30 million contract with the Los Angeles Unified School District, but what exactly are the students and teachers really getting out of this? How often will they get hands on time with the tablets since there are so few of them? If they had purchased $30 million worth of the cheapest Surface tablets there would have been one tablet per five students. Still not one per student but each student would have significantly more hands on time than they will with the iPads.